Gladiators face to face in television's baying arena

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Indy Politics
Consternation was written on the faces of executives at Granada Television studios in Liverpool's Albert Dock yesterday, writes Fran Abrams. Michael Heseltine was in the boardroom, John Prescott was at a safe distance in the editor's office, and the Liberal Democrats' Menzies Campbell was somewhere on the M6.

Perhaps Mr Campbell should have studied the floating This Morning weather map before he set off to record last night's South Wirral by-election special television head-to-head.

With his Liverpool-based colleague David Alton heading for make-up as a stand-in, he finally came through on a feed from Manchester with "Children's TV" emblazoned behind his head. A Wirral backdrop hastily arranged behind him, the rest of the panel was finally assembled with Mr Prescott wearing what Gillian Shephard recently called his "Giles' Granny" face.

No sooner had they watched the opening film than the audience, selected from the three parties, let rip. Within minutes, a woman was screaming at Mr Heseltine: "You have lied to us, left, right and centre. I'm just a mother and I have struggled to feed my kids. I have gone without food to feed my kid!"

Mr Heseltine had little chance to reply - the rest of the audience was bombarding the woman with shouts of "rubbish".

And things went from bad to worse with the politicians finding themselves battling against a crescendo of abuse.